KG: Please introduce who Mpho Khosi is.
Mpho: Storyteller. Poet, sometimes perceived as a slammer (which I suck at). A lover of jazz. Father of two.
KG: One day you picked up a pen and started writing poetry because…
Mpho: One day I picked up a pen and started writing poetry because we were asked to do it at school – Standard 2 assignment. So the teacher sends us out, says, “guys go write a poem about anything you see”. So I wrote about people passing – between our school and the crèche, there’s a passage – so I wrote a poem slash story about the people. When I went back to school she said, “You didn’t write this. Who wrote this for you?”
It was a good sign, that ok, you can write a story.
KG: Why did you stick with it?
Mpho: It was an escape for me. I only started performing years after I had started writing. So I was doing it, but I wouldn’t really perform; I would just write. People would read it and tell me to perform. So I stuck with it because it gave me an escape – create my own realities.
KG: What’s one thing a poet/writer needs to do to be a good poet/writer?
Mpho: To be a good writer or poet, I think, is to constantly apply yourself. In everything. What I’ve learnt is applying yourself in other parts of your life contribute to how you write, how you interpret things. So, apply yourself. It helps. It gives you that discipline to apply yourself even in your writing.
KG: It’s been said that the role of an African writer is to document African history. What is your comment on that statement?
Mpho: It’s somewhat true. I would agree with it to a certain point because when you say you are documenting African history, we are being slightly one dimensional and slightly backwards, because we are saying document what has happened, and what is happening currently, going backwards. We are not saying document what you foresee happening, we are not saying document the possibility of the future. That is the backwards element.
The one dimensional element is, African history is changing. It’s including now, Africans in the diaspora. It’s including, now, Europe. It’s including everyone who was perceived as non-African but they actually are. So we should broaden it a bit. Yes, document what’s happening, what you foresee, within your living space, relate it to the universe, because I think we are not unique. Some of the problems we face, we might find solutions elsewhere, once we start documenting a universal reality.
KG: What is the true power of words?
Mpho: Word creates. It’s with words that ngizovaya ngiyoshela lom’ntwana ngim’tshela ukuthi ngiyamthanda and create that love between us. From strangers to lovers. Word creates, it brings to life … depending on how you use it.
KG: Do you think we’re doing enough for, in or about South African languages?
Mpho: No. You go to any commercial show, and it’s rare to find someone slamming ka mother-tongue yah ae. I struggle to expand when it comes to using Sesotho, which is weird. I think it’s not a unique phenomenon, ka nna fela because not enough of us are writing in our indigenous tongue. So, in terms of preserving it, ke mathata.